In today’s post, Tim of UrbanDuniya is sharing his one day itinerary around Lahore for less than $25. Tim is a talented writer, traveller, journalist, amateur photographer and teacher. UrbanDuniya is an online journal featuring independent and alternative news, reviews, opinion and discussion from four major cities across Australia and the Indian subcontinent. It was founded on values of community, quality and integrity, and offers a world of good living, great writing and striking photography. Besides, Tim is one of our favourite travel bloggers who always contributes to our guest posts and collaborative posts. We always follow his voyages across India and Australia, so if you have not heard of him already, make sure to visit his blog.
Pakistan is one of the cheapest countries in the world in which to travel, and the second city of Lahore is a great place to start exploring this largely untouristed nation.
Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan, and the capital of the most populous province Punjab. It is easy to see quite a the best of Lahore for less than $25 a day – in fact you could even do it for less than $10 if you really wanted to!
Accommodation in Lahore is as cheap as chips – literally! You can check in to a dormitory at the Regale Internet Inn for just 250 Pakistan Rupees per night ($2.50). The Regale Internet Inn is centrally located on Mall Road in the centre of Colonial Lahore, and is something of a travellers’ institution in Pakistan; it runs trips to a Sufi shrine for a spiritual music performance each Thursday night, and on Saturday nights there is live music on the rooftop. The only drawback is that there is no air conditioning, and summers in Lahore can be hot, so be prepared!!
Sightseeing and Food
Start your day early – we’ve got a lot to see! Begin with a hearty local breakfast of channa dhal, curried chick peas served steaming hot out of a large pot beside the road.
It’s heaven when served with warm chapati and, of course, a cup of chai – and only costs PKR 80 (80 cents) all in! There are lots of places serving channa dhal on the side streets off Mall Road, so you shouldn’t have to look too far. With health in mind, opt for a popular-looking stall that has just opened for the day – it will be popular for a reason, the food will be fresh, and the plates (hopefully) clean.
From there, you can walk two kilometres along Mall Road towards the old city, admiring for free the beautiful British colonial era buildings on either side. You’ll easy spot the GPO, Museum and Town Hall on the left, and towards the end, cut through Naseer Park on the right towards Government College University. (Unfortunately, due to security, a tall screen has been placed at the univeristy’s boundary, so you can’t view it from up close – you’ll get a better perspective if you stand across the road on the park’s boundary).
After Government College University, make a right on to Lower Mall and cross to the opposite side. The grand colonnaded buildings of Mall Road give way to the noisy bazaars of old Lahore, and after about 600 metres you’ll reach the grand shrine of Data Darbar on the left. Entrance is free but very security is very tight (no cameras are allowed whatsoever, and there’s nowhere to store them, so perhaps take turns with one friend standing outside holding the bags while the other one explores the sublime forecourt).
Back out on the main road, you can deviate into the Walled City through Bhatti Gate, getting lost in the labyrinthine streets. Make sure you visit Wazir Khan Mosque and Sunheri Mosque (both free entry), before eventually arriving at the Heera Mandi, Lahore’s red light district. By now you’ll be hot and thirsty, so make your way to Arif Chatkhara, in the centre of Heera Mandi – ask for directions if you need. It serves up spicy seared chicken, fresh off the tawa (hotplate) – wash it all down with a fresh lime (lemonade with a twist of lime juice and, optionally, a dash of salt if you dare). Lunch should cost you no more than PKR 300 including drinks ($3).
After lunch, step outside the Walled City and visit Shahi Qila (Royal Fort), where entrance costs PKR 200 ($2) per person. Opposite the fort is Lahore’s icon, the Badhshahi Mosque (entrance free, but a PKR 10 tip is a nice gesture for the men who mind your shoes at the gate). Walking away from the Walled City, down to the main road, directly in front of you stands Minar-e-Pakistan. This is the spot where Pakistan’s call for independence was first made in 1940.
Depending how late it is, you could either hang around to watch the sun set over the mosque, or make your way back to Mall Road and hit up the Lahore Museum, home to Pakistan’s largest collection of historic artefacts and, crucially in summer, cavernous and cool rooms (Museum entry PKR 400, = $4). Either way, to get back to the hotel you walk across the park towards the highway and arrive at Azadi Chowk Metrobus Station. Take a bus back down towards Mall Road for PKR 20 (20 cents), alighting at Civil Secretariat Station. Walk back along Mall Road, the same way you came, past the museum.
Dinner is at Anarkali Food Street, just back past the museum towards the hostel. Saji, a whole chicken stuffed with salty rice and roasted, is native to Pakistan’s far-flung province of Balochistan on the border with Iran. A quarter chicken and as much rice as you can eat, plus a fruit juice, costs about PKR 300 ($3). Finally, before you hit the sack, make sure to stop by the famous Chaman Ice Cream store just across the road from the Regale Internet Inn – their Coconut Ice Cream (PKR 55 = 55 cents) is a little slice of heaven, while the Coconut Ice Cream Milkshake (PKR 150 = $1.50) might just change your life!
Extreme budget travel?
To do this for under $10 a day, skip the entrance fees to the fort and the museum, and instead spend your time ambling around more of the Walled City – there are plenty of other things to be discovered!